Liberal Opinion: Has BJP has set its eyes on 2027 Punjab Assembly elections?

Politics: 2027 will be a crucial year for Punjab politics

For all political parties, every election is a battle for both supremacy and survival. It is why the political parties not only take the services of poll strategists, social media experts and others but also use every weapon in their armory to win maximum electors in their fold. True to adage, they work on the principle of “everything is fair in war” and elections in present day times have become “political wars”.

They are preceded by a series of defections, vilification campaigns and at times coercive dynamics of the ruling clans to either win over or silence their political opponents and critics.

All parties have set their eyes on the biggest battle of the times, the 2024 general elections. Question that immediately crops up is “will it be a direct contest between the ruling BJP and the united rest” or “will it be a multangular contest with the ruling party facing the rest?”. Whatever, it is going to be a fierce battle to coincide with the biggest festival of democracy.

Though the battlefield will spread to the length and breadth of the country, some areas or territories may become cynosure of world eyes for either their strategic locations or for their political innovations and alliances. Punjab will be one of such territories besides its neighboring Jammu and Kashmir.

Punjab, though small with only 13 Lok Sabha seats, has always stood out for its political initiatives. The State is known for defying the rest of the country’s calculations. And 2024 is not going to be any different.

It will be different from 2019 as it, unless some last-minute equations or alliances work out, may witness quadrangular contests in all 13 parliamentary constituencies.

The ruling party at the center has been working hard to create its foothold in the State that had till the last general election remained a stronghold for two major parties – Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal. But with the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party and its roaring success in the 2022 assembly elections when it won 92 of 117 seats in the State legislature, both Congress and SAD are tottering at the brink with BJP, after end of its alliance with its traditional partner, SAD, trying really hard to establish its own political identity in the State.

Though SAD has gone back to Bahujan Samaj Party to redeem some of its lost territory, it is still fighting a battle for survival. Defections and growing lack of confidence in the party leadership continue to be the major problems facing the party. For the first time since reorganization, it has been reduced to three members in the State Legislature. Right now, it has Sukhbir Badal, and wife, Harsimrat Badal, representing the once all-powerful SAD in Lok Sabha. It may not be easy for the Badal couple to retain its membership of the lower house of Parliament in 2024.

Congress, too, has suffered immensely because of infighting and defections. It has lost the maximum, both in leaders and workers, to BJP. It faces an arduous task in keeping the rest of the house in order as the poachers from the ruling party are active overtime to wreak further damage to the party that lost not only its previous Chief Minister, some of its tallest Hindu and Dalit leaders but also several other prominent Sikh leaders, to the BJP.

The top BJP leadership must be patting its back over the performance of its candidates – turnovers from both Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal – in the last two bye elections from Sangrur and Jalandhar, respectively. Though the candidates may have failed to save their security deposits in both the elections, they were successful in proving a point that they are well within a chance of political survival on their own in the State.

Other day I had a chance to travel with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur from Chandigarh to New Delhi. During an hour-long journey, various issues – from sports politics, including wrestling imbroglio, to politics, Jalandhar by poll and Punjab politics, came up for off the record discussions.

Anurag was part of the main campaign team of BJP in Jalandhar. He had two of nine Lok Sabha assembly segments to look after. And BJP did well in both. Anurag has the advantage of being rooted in Jalandhar as his father, Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal, had taught in a Jalandhar college. He understands Punjab and its political orientation well.

It is one reason that BJP has been using both Hardeep Singh Puri, a diplomat-turned-politician and an ardent Sikh, and Anurag Thakur to work  at spreading the party’s base in Punjab. Target may not be a few Lok Sabha seats, but it definitely is to emerge as a new power center in the 2027 Assembly elections. Writing is on the wall for other three major political players – AAP, Congress and SAD – to accept or counter this challenge.

(Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience of 14 years with Reuters News and 30 years with The Tribune Group, covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows.)